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Sauvignon Blanc Lost at Sea

Plus, Sideways on stage, World War II wine, and Iron Horse's Joy Sterling gets appointed to California's Board of Food and Agriculture

Posted: July 18, 2013

• Aging wine under the sea has been a trending fad in recent years, but the ocean seems to be getting more than its intended share of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Last year, the 775-foot, 50,000-ton cargo ship the Rena wrecked off the coast of New Zealand, taking down 4,000 cases of Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc with it. Now an even larger cargo ship, the MOL Comfort, has broken in two off the coast of Yemen and sunk with thousands of cases of Saint Clair Family Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir aboard. The wine was being shipped to Sweden. "Unfortunately, two containers of our wine headed to our Swedish market were on the [MOL Comfort]," read a June 20 post on Saint Clair's blog. "That wine will never be seen again. Don’t fret you Swedish lovelies; we have more on the way." The 1,000-foot Comfort suffered a crack during rough weather in the Arabian Sea on June 17 and broke in two, with the 26-member crew safely rescued by another container ship. Both pieces of the ship remained afloat, and salvage operations commenced the following week. The stern section of the boat sank June 27, but the bow section was being towed to shore when it caught fire on July 6, destroying most of the remaining cargo containers before it, too, sank to the ocean floor this past Wednesday. While Saint Clair's staff may have given up on these wines, Unfiltered thinks these bottles are going to answer a lot of questions about aging screw-capped wines underwater in the year 2100.

• It looks like Sideways, the wine tale that taught Americans to look down their noses at Merlot, has become a triple threat: Initially an unwanted manuscript dismissed by publishers, it eventually became an acclaimed novel and Oscar-winning film. Now it hits the stage at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, Calif. Rex Pickett, the author of the novel, collaborates with artistic director Des McAnuff in the stage adaptation. Patrick Breen and Sean Allan Krill star respectively as Miles and Jack, the pathetic comical duo who journey through Santa Barbara wine country, find a couple of women and good Pinots on their way, and are ultimately faced with the grim reality of their mid-life crisis, a has-been actor and a failed writer unraveling before our eyes. The touching tragicomedy opened on stage this week and is expected to run through Aug. 25.

• Wine has famously helped chill out some heated diplomatic relationships—Nixon popping bubbly with Chou En-Lai, Reagan getting loose with Gorbachev—but sometimes wine means war: Ottoman Sultan Selim II ("the Drunk") is supposed to have conquered Cyprus in 1571 to get a line on his favorite Cypriot pour. More recently, the woes and wiles of Champenois under Nazi occupation are well-documented: losing vines to bombs, sealing off the best cuvées in hidden chambers in the caves. So why not wine to benefit a World War II charity? That's the concept behind the World War II wine series, for the World War II Foundation, whose mission is "to produce educational films and create initiatives recognizing the bravery and enormous contributions made by the men and women of the United States military during World War II so that future generations of Americans appreciate the determination and sacrifices that enabled perpetuation of our basic freedoms." The newest documentary in the works details the travails of Bruce Sundlun, a pilot shot down over occupied Belgium in 1943 who stole more than 100 bikes in his trek back to Allied territory and who was later elected governor of Rhode Island. There are six bottlings priced at $20, with $6 apiece going to the foundation, and each has label art depicting a major battle or operation in the war: Iwo Jima Malbec, D-Day Sauvignon Blanc, Battle of the Bulge Pinot, Guadalcanal Chardonnay, Operation Market Garden Merlot and Pearl Harbor Cabernet. The wines are Chilean, but Chile was in fact a participant in the war, being the last nation to jump in in 1945, on our side.

• Iron Horse Vineyards CEO Joy Sterling, who Unfiltered readers will know is no stranger to schmoozing with government types, was appointed to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture this month. This is “an exciting new chapter,” she said, in a life already rife with achievement. The former broadcast journalist and author of four wine-related books, Sterling joined the Iron Horse family business in 1985 and took over as CEO in 2006. The Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir specialist made history when its sparkling wine was raised to make a toast to peace between Pres. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the summit meeting in Geneva in 1985. As a state board member, Sterling will collaborate with the governor and the secretary of agriculture on a wide range of issues. When asked how she viewed her position on the board, Sterling told Unfiltered that she planned to “take advantage of having one mouth to speak and two ears to listen.”

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